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Leadership Recipe for Empowering Growth and Driving Results - F01

Updated: Jul 22, 2023

Navigate 1x1 Conversations with ease: A Framework for Effective Meetings


"Leadership is not about being in charge. It is about taking care of those in your charge." - Simon Sinek

Simon’s books and speeches have shaped my approach to leadership and helped me improve a lot.


Picture this: you're sitting in yet another 1x1 feedback session, trying to crack a joke to break the tension. But deep down, you know there's more to these meetings than awkward laughs. You're seeking ways to transform these routine encounters into meaningful dialogues that empower your team and propel their growth (and yours).

In today's competitive landscape, effective performance evaluation and feedback are not just nice-to-haves, but absolute musts for driving performance. They serve as essential check-ins where you assess performance, exchange feedback, and aim to achieve core objectives like motivation, performance improvement, skill development, communication, and relationship building.

As a leader, you want to ensure these meetings are a good investment of time for both parties.

  • Do you find it challenging to balance the listed objectives in your 1×1 meetings?

  • Do you struggle with managing defensiveness and resistance from team members?

  • Are you finding it difficult and exhausting to prepare for these meetings?

  • Have you received feedback from your team regarding the need for better articulation of your feedback?

  • Do you struggle to provide specific and actionable feedback without sounding repetitive?

I am excited to share with you a tried-and-tested framework that I have personally utilized for over five years. This proven framework not only encompasses all six essential elements of a successful feedback meeting but has also played a pivotal role in my growth and improvement as a leader. By implementing this performance evaluation and improvement framework, I have witnessed significant positive results and I am confident that it can benefit you too.

I named it 4 Blocker, even though it's grammatically incorrect, but the name has stuck with me. As I explored different variations of feedback frameworks, my confidence grew with each discovery, reinforcing my belief that there is a strong demand for a simple framework to enhance leadership effectiveness. If you’ve never tried a variant of this before, my recommendation is to perform this assessment every 6 weeks. While I don't have a specific reason for this timeframe, based on my experience, I've found that 6 weeks allows sufficient time for translating ideas into prototypes or finished products, while also providing flexibility for adjustments if the results don't align with projections.

When it comes to meeting preparation, there's always a to-do list awaiting each team member. Think of it as a collection of tasks, projects, goals, action items, previous feedback, and more that your team member needs to tackle. Now, let's leverage this foundation to guide you in getting ready for the meeting.

a person is using critical thinking and structured thinking to solve a problem. He is using a whiteboard to look at the problem and it's components visually so he can solve it step by step

Meet Peter, an analyst working for a company in the thriving world of two-sided marketplaces. Their business model revolves around connecting customers with skilled professionals (let's call them partners) for on-demand design work. Recently, Peter successfully developed a dashboard that empowers the customer success manager to identify professionals who have experienced a significant drop of over -20% in orders placed during the past week. This dashboard goes the extra mile by delving into the factors contributing to the decline, enabling the customer success manager to swiftly pinpoint actionable steps to share with the partners and provide effective solutions.

Block 1 - Celebrating Achievements and Impact

Block 1 is all about acknowledging and highlighting successes. Simply stating, "I completed X project in under 2 weeks" is a good start, but it doesn't capture the full picture of the project's impact. It's important to go beyond the accomplishment itself and articulate the value it brings. This could include decisions driven by the project, improvements in metrics or KPIs, or contributions to overall business growth.

It's worth noting that not every task or accomplishment may have an immediate, tangible impact. Sometimes, foundational work generates value over time. In such cases, it's valuable to mention the projected impact or results that the foundational work is expected to bring. Additionally, if there are ongoing projects that are still on track and hold the potential to add value as intended, they can be mentioned in this section.

Let's imagine how Peter would fill out Block 1:

Completed Partner Performance dashboard that will help the Customer Success team proactively reach out to 100+ Partners weekly with recommendations to improve their earnings.

Completed Partner Performance dashboard - Accomplishment

…that will help the Customer Success team proactively reach out to 100+ Partners weekly with recommendations to improve their earnings - Projected Impact

Natasha is Adam’s manager, and these 2 sentences allow her to understand WHAT Peter did and WHY he did it. If she needs more technical details, she can always reach out to him to learn HOW he accomplished it. If Peter's dashboard was already creating value, his update would have been slightly different. Instead of mentioning the projected impact, he would have highlighted the actual impact it has had.

Block 1 offers three key benefits for leaders:

  • It provides a straightforward overview of achievements, even when they are tasks within a larger project or foundational work.

  • It serves as a key takeaway of the team member's work.

  • It encourages team members to reflect on the impact of their contributions which helps them connect their work to a bigger picture.

Remember, this was just one example of a win. Peter can mention additional accomplishments if there are more to share.

Block 2 - Addressing Challenges and Missed Opportunities

the meeting should be collaborative and respectful. It shouldn't feel like an interrogation.

Block 2 focuses on items that were planned but either not started or incomplete within the agreed timelines. It is crucial to not only identify these missed opportunities but also evaluate the reasons behind them. Understanding the "why" is often overlooked or unfortunately skipped. However, just as we strive to determine the root causes of a drop in business KPIs, it is equally important to investigate the reasons behind a teammate's performance decline or dip. Similar to how we diligently search for the underlying causes of a business performance drop and take necessary steps to improve it, we should apply the same approach to our team members. Block 2 helps uncover the root causes of ineffectiveness, laying the foundation for the next block.

Peter, our analyst friend, was tasked with building a report to analyze why partners abandon the sign-up procedure, which is a key objective of the Product team to increase the number of partners on the platform this quarter. Unfortunately, Peter hasn't completed this report, despite starting it a month ago.

Here's how Peter filled out Block 2:

Sign-up funnel report is still a work in progress. Estimated time to complete - 6 days. Conflict on priority with Partner Performance dashboard and Sign-up funnel report.

Peter acknowledges that the sign-up funnel report is incomplete and provides an estimated time for completion. He also mentions a conflict in priority between the Partner Performance dashboard and the sign-up funnel report.

For Natasha, Peter's manager, this is a critical stage of their meeting. It's important to approach it with sensitivity and avoid sounding like an interrogation. Critical Thinking skills can be of immense help here. She wants to understand the root cause of the priority conflict to develop an action plan that helps Peter prevent or mitigate similar instances in the future.

I've personally found the "5 Whys" technique to be effective. This approach involves asking "why" multiple times to delve deeper into the root cause of a problem. It helps peel off layers of information with each answer. Another effective way to address problems without sounding authoritative or interrogating is to simply inform your team that you'll be using this technique. Make it clear that it is intended for problem-solving purposes and not to be misunderstood as anything else. Yes, it is that simple and works.

Here's a hypothetical conversation with Peter:

Natasha: Why did we not discuss the status of this item in our last meeting?

Peter: I was focused on the Partner Performance project and forgot to mention it. Sorry.

Natasha: Understandable. Why did we face a conflict in priority for our two most important deliverables?

Peter: Both projects required four weeks each, and it was impossible to complete both within the last six weeks.

Natasha: Fair point. Why did we fail to highlight that we were overcommitted, leading to incorrect delivery expectations for the Product team?

Peter: Initially, I estimated one project to take 10 days, and the other 20 days but the Partner Performance dashboard took me 26 days, exceeding my original estimate by six days.

Natasha: What caused us to go beyond our estimations? Where did we underestimate our level of effort?

Peter: I underestimated the time needed to build the dashboard. I had to research advanced features to make it actionable and self-service.

Natasha: I see. Thank you, Peter. This was a helpful perspective.

Effective and respectful probing, along with psychological safety within the team, are topics that could be explored further. For now, Natasha discovered the root cause from Peter's explanation: the level of effort was underestimated, leading to extra time spent on making the dashboard functional and ready for use.

Block 2 offers three key benefits for leaders:

  • Specific on what was planned to happen but didn’t.

  • Team members' evaluation on why it didn't happen.

  • Builds a great segue to probing if the leader isn't satisfied with the evaluation and believes there's more to the root cause.

Block 3 - Action Plan and Focus Areas

an action plan document with focus areas and steps, representing the implementation of the Performance Evaluation Framework.Block 3 is about aligning on a SMART action plan.

Block 3 serves as a self-evaluation for team members, where they outline the actions they commit to taking in order to address the challenges and missed opportunities mentioned in Block 2. A team member is required to either identify the root cause themselves and propose an action plan or if they haven't identified it, their leader must assist them in creating a plan based on the root cause they both discover together.

Here are three questions to guide your team when filling out Block 3, especially if Block 2 isn’t empty:

  • Have you noticed any recurring patterns in your approach that hinder your ability to achieve the desired success?

  • Have you identified any areas for improvement or growth?

  • What specific actions are you committed to taking in order to enhance your areas of opportunity?

Here’s what Peter filled in Block 3

Proactively reach out to stakeholders and Natasha to reset delivery expectations if running late.

While Peter took a step in the right direction, there is one crucial aspect missing from his action plan to address this recurring issue. During the discussion in Block 2, the root cause of underestimating the level of effort was identified. To arrive at this conclusion, Natasha and Peter engaged in structured thinking and thorough probing. They examined each stage from ideation to delivery and discussed how Peter allocated and estimated time for each task.

Specifically, Natasha focused on the mental calculations Peter relied on when estimating time on the dashboard. Although she understood that complete accuracy was an impractical expectation, Peter had a good understanding of what questions his stakeholders needed from the dashboard, However, he missed to factor in enough research time in his overall estimation.

Taking this into consideration, Natasha advised Peter to incorporate dedicated research time into his estimates, especially when working on tasks that are not repetitive. - Action Plan

Therefore, as part of Peter's action plan, it is essential for him to actively allocate time for research, particularly when he anticipates it will be necessary. By doing so, he can enhance his estimation process and prevent future issues related to underestimating effort.- Focus Area

Providing context to the focus area is important. It's not just about the specific project but also about improving Peter's overall impact on future assignments. For example, improving his ability to build dashboards with better UX will contribute towards creating a self-service infrastructure for his stakeholders, and scoping delivery timelines will help him avoid overcommitment on all his projects in the future, not just the current one. It's a win for all three parties involved.

Completing Blocks 2 and 3 can pose challenges as they involve acknowledging mistakes and sharing evaluations on the root causes, which can be uncomfortable and difficult to discuss, let alone document. However, it is crucial to cultivate a culture of psychological safety within your team, as it contributes to fostering a healthy and supportive work environment. This process will be a defining moment in your leadership journey. While this framework may not directly teach you how to foster psychological safety, it serves as a step in the right direction by encouraging open discussions about mistakes and outlining measures for improvement. If you're interested in delving deeper into the topic of Psychological Safety, I strongly recommend exploring the insights of Amy Edmondson, who has extensively researched this subject.

Block 3 offers five key benefits for leaders:

  • The action plan is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) actions. For example, Peter now knows what to do to not overcommit again (S), he would be able to evaluate the effectiveness of this plan by testing his time estimations for projects (M), and the action plan has been agreed upon by both, and is practical (A), the actions are not generic but directly related to examples of what Peter is working and challenged on (R), and Both Natasha and Peter will have a framework to review the progress on action items by next meeting (T)

  • It lists actionable steps based on challenges and missed opportunities in Block 2

  • It helps you structure your probing and facilitates a discussion on areas of opportunity for improvement and growth.

  • It's an important step towards fostering a culture of psychological safety in your team.

  • With just three 4-blocker meetings, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of your team member's strengths, areas for improvement, and the outcomes of their commitment to executing the action plan as per Block 3.

For Natasha’s next 4 blocker meeting, she asks Peter to add in his action items from Block 3. So by the next instance, Peter will either have the status of this item in Block 1 (accomplishments) or Block 2 (Missed opportunities). You'll easily see if the action plan in Block 3 is working because if it's not, you'll notice it in Block 2. You'll have specific feedback and examples to share with your team member. You can use the "WHY" exercise again to uncover whether it's a skill issue or a motivation issue and address your findings.

Block 4 - Help Needed and Feedback

a team meeting where you can ask for help and leave feedback for your leader. with a leader providing guidance and feedback, highlighting the importance of effective communication and support in the Performance Evaluation Framework

Block 4 serves as an opportunity to address two important questions:

  • How can your leader support you to be more effective? - Help Needed

  • How can your leader improve their own effectiveness? - Feedback

When it comes to help needed, team members can discuss various areas where they require assistance. This can include support for career growth, identifying training needs, seeking opportunities for exposure to executive leadership, or requesting help with external factors that were identified as root causes in Block 2. On the other hand, feedback for your lesser must be either constructive or positive.

Let's consider a scenario where Peter accurately estimated his workload, but Natasha assigned him an additional project without specifying its priority. Situations like this often occur, where extra work gets added without clear instructions. In such cases, Peter can utilize Block 4 to ask Natasha to define clear priorities when conflicts arise between two or more tasks as it helps him increase his own effectiveness. By doing so, he’s clearly giving Natasha feedback and an action item.

Here's a recommended structure for Peter's help needed section:

  1. I want to be able to... - Peter describes what he aims to achieve but currently cannot.

  2. So that I can... - Peter explains the value he will gain by accomplishing (1).

  3. I can't do that right now because... - Peter highlights the specific barriers or challenges preventing him from achieving (1).

The purpose of Block 4 serves two key objectives: fostering trust between the team member and the leader and ensuring accountability. It allows the leader to follow up on the listed items, report progress, and demonstrate their investment in the team member's growth and improvement.

Block 4 offers four key benefits for leaders:

  • By explicitly stating the specific areas where assistance is required, Block 4 promotes clear and open communication between the team member and the leader.

  • The leader's active engagement in asking the team member to list their needs, addressing those needs, and reporting progress along with welcoming feedback builds trust and reinforces the team member's confidence in their support system.

  • Promotes shared accountability where the team member is accountable for actively seeking assistance and articulating their needs, while the leader is accountable for following up and providing the necessary support.

  • Provides a forum for a team member to share feedback with their leader.

Here’s Peter’s 4 blocker

4 blocker framework example showing all four blocks and how a team member filled it for a meeting with his leader

It's completely fine to have empty blocks. It's okay if Block 1 is blank. It's okay if Block 2 is empty, and if it happens frequently and you agree that Block 2 is truly empty, it indicates a great performer. Block 4 can be empty too. It simply means that a team member doesn't have any specific actions they need from the leader for that meeting.


As a leader, consistently following this framework will provide you with a deep understanding of the areas where your team members excel and where they have opportunities for growth. It goes beyond surface-level observations like "…is good at meeting deadlines" or "… has excellent probing skills." Instead, you gain insight into the underlying factors that drive their performance, both positive and negative. This framework empowers you to identify and address the root causes behind their successes or challenges.

leadership is about creating an environment where there is psychological safety and team members are not just encouraged but expected to raise items they need help on and feel safe to give a feedback to their leaders

When you reflect on your career, you'll likely remember the leaders who supported your growth and helped you improve. It's these leaders who leave a lasting impact, not just for helping you meet short-term deadlines or tasks. By utilizing this framework, you have the opportunity to become that memorable leader for your team members. You can make a meaningful difference in their skill development, which has long-term benefits and contributes to their overall growth.

People remember how you made them feel and how you helped them enhance their abilities. By actively engaging in their progress, addressing areas of improvement, and fostering their professional development, you create a supportive environment that enables them to thrive. This framework is a powerful tool for cultivating a culture of continuous improvement and leaving a lasting positive impact on your team members' skills and career trajectories.

Lastly, let's test this framework against our six elements.

Motivation: Focus areas (Block 3) help you outline an action plan and explain the benefits to the team member. It's a recommendation to help them improve their output, outcomes, and overall effectiveness.

Feedback on performance: Block 1 is an opportunity to appreciate accomplishments. Block 2 is a chance to collaboratively discover the root cause with your employee, and Block 3 involves drafting an action plan. Blocks 2 and 3 also provide opportunities to appreciate their transparency, even if it was initially challenging.

Action plan for improving performance: Block 3 is dedicated to aligning on an action plan to improve performance.

Skill development: The input from Block 3 will eventually lead to improvement. Any skill development items mentioned in Block 4 are also open for discussion.

Communication: The 4-blocker is a great way to structure your communication flow and helps you articulate your messaging.

Relationship building: Block 4 gives your team member an opportunity to hold you accountable for their help-needed items. In Blocks 2 and 3, as you discovered areas of opportunity and created an action plan for your team member's improvement, you are also building a solid foundation of psychological safety with your team.

How can you tell if this framework is benefiting you and your team?

By effectively using this framework over time, you will observe some positive indicators. First, you will see that your team's Block 1, which covers wins and accomplishments, will have more items. This indicates that your team members are achieving success and making progress. Second, Block 2, which addresses areas that didn't go well, will have fewer items. This suggests that issues and obstacles are being resolved and prevented. Finally, Block 3, which focuses on self-evaluation and action plans, will also have fewer items as your team members improve their skills and address their areas for growth.

In summary, if you notice an increase in Block 1 items, a decrease in Block 2 items, and a reduction in Block 3 items over time, it's a clear sign that this framework is fostering your personal growth as a leader and contributing to the overall development of your team.

Are you ready to try the 4 blocker? If your answer ranges anywhere in between maybe to can't wait, I am eager to learn about your progress. Don't hesitate to reach out to me. Remember, building a foundation always begins with a small step.

If you are still undecided to try the 4 blocker, I would ask you to tap into your growth mindset and take that first step. You got this!

4 blocker framework by framework garage showing how to structure performance evaluation meetings with highlighting achievements,  discussing the root causes of tasks not completed, creating an action plan for those root causes, and giving a platform to the team members to give feedback to their leaders and ask for help
The 4 blocker framework


And, that is it for this issue. Thank you for reading and for your engagement. I've never published the 4 blocker before so I am curious to hear from you.

Have you ever given this framework or a similar approach a shot? If you have, I'd love to know all about your experiences. Did you encounter any hurdles along the way? Or maybe you stumbled upon some unexpected perks? Feel free to drop a comment below and share your insights and stories. And hey, if you prefer a more one-on-one chat, my inbox is always open and ready for your feedback.

If you've found this valuable, please help me spread the word by sharing this article with your network.

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Jul 27, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

"This course is a game-changer! 'Leadership Recipe for Empowering Growth and Driving Results' equipped me with the skills to lead with confidence and achieve remarkable outcomes.

Highly recommended article for all !


Jul 17, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Thank you


Jul 07, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I'm going to try it


Jul 06, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I have practically used this and I really loved it :)

Anirudh Kuthiala
Anirudh Kuthiala
Jul 07, 2023
Replying to

That's amazing to hear. I am eager to learn about your experience and pitfalls if any.

Thank you for your engagement.

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